A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Wallpaper Right

Follow these experts’ wallcovering ideas and tips to help ensure a successful outcome

By Sophie Baylis / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Wallpaper makes an instant impression — and it’s not always a positive one. Uneven walls, poor color choices and a lack of preparation can mean that your newly papered room doesn’t feel welcoming. Here, four experts share simple wallpaper ideas and tips to help ensure that your walls are memorable for the right reasons.

Our wallpaper experts:
Natasha Broady of A Splash of Colour
Paula Taylor of Graham & Brown
Nigel Poole of GoWallpaper
Ekaterina Yaschuk ofMeystyle

Consider the tone you want to set. Wallpaper sets the style of a space, and it’s here you should start when you’re deciding on a design. Knowing what role it will play can help you make this decision, says Natasha Broady of A Touch of Colour. Will it be a dominant feature, or do you want it to tie in harmoniously with the rest of the room?” 

Trends come and go, but wallpaper can last up to 10 years, so make sure you love it before you buy it. We all see the elements of wallpaper designs slightly differently, depending on the moods and memories they evoke. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut instead of relying on others’ opinions.

Start with samples. Once you’ve narrowed down your wallpaper ideas, samples should be your next step. They give a precise idea of the real color, texture and scale of a design,“ says Ekaterina Yaschuk of Meystyle. “Look at your samples in both artificial and daylight: The effect might vary considerably, and what looks good in natural light might appear too dark in artificial light or vice versa.”

You can also use samples to evaluate the quality and thickness of a wallpaper, along with how it will need to be hung. Yaschuk recommends showing your chosen sample to your installer in advance so he or she can plan tools and other resources.

Take a note of the batch number. If you’re using a sample to color-match the rest of your decor, make sure you note down its batch, or dye-lot, number.Wallpaper cuts printed in different batches can show considerable color variation,“ Yaschuk says.Using the batch number as a reference when ordering the wallpaper can save you from unpleasant surprises.”

Research what’s hot in wallpapers right now.“Textured wallpaper [as seen in this room] is still huge and will be for a long time to come,” Broady says. “Not only does it look sumptuous, it can really add warmth and depth to a space. Combine it with rugs and throws, animal-inspired prints or grass cloth textures to make a room look interesting and feel very rich.”

For more wallpaper ideas that wow, designs mimicking natural materials are big news too, generally because they’re cheaper to buy and install than the real thing. Look for realistic marble, polished concrete, brick and wood effects.

Nature has also inspired the jungle-themed papers that are popular this season. Look for big leaf motifs, cactus prints, and deep and bright greens mixed with touches of bold color.

In addition, Paula Taylor of Graham & Brown predicts that warm metallics will remain strong this season. “We’ve seen the rise of copper and its more feminine partner, rose gold, taking center stage, teamed with the softer pastel shades and nudes,” she says.

Choose wisely for kitchens and bathrooms. A washable vinyl wallpaper is best in rooms that are regularly exposed to steam. “It’s easy to clean, and stains don’t usually soak into vinyl wallpaper,”says Nigel Poole of GoWallpaper. “It’s thicker than other wallpapers, and it will hide imperfections and cracks. Plus, it’s durable and user-friendly, so you can use it in other rooms too.”

If the wallpaper you want for your kitchen isn’t vinyl, Yaschuk suggests installing a glass backsplash to protect it from wear and dirt. “It will perform just as well as tiles or paint, but you won’t have to compromise on creativity,” she says. 

Crunch the numbers. To work out how many rolls you’ll need, first look at the width of your chosen paper. Measure the perimeter of the room, including doors and windows, and divide this by the width of your paper. 

To calculate the total length of wallpaper needed, multiply the height of the room by the number of widths needed. Divide this number by the length of a roll. This final figure will be the number of rolls you’ll need.

If math isn’t your strong subject, many retailers have an online calculator that will give you a rough guide to the number of rolls you’ll need to complete the job. Taylor recommends that you buy at least one extra roll in case of mishaps or miscalculations.

Take care when stripping wallpaper. Remember to protect your floor when using a wallpaper stripper. “The process may get messy, with steam and water running down your walls and dripping all over the place,” Yaschuk says. “Take the right precautions, and you’ll save yourself from dealing with unwanted dirt and water stains or, worse, unhappy neighbors later!”

Poole recommends wallpaper stripper solutions such as those by Zinsser instead of a steamer. They’re simple to use, meaning less mess, although you’ll need some specialist tactics. Score the wallpaper carefully to allow the stripper solution to work effectively, and avoid excess pressure with your scraper when removing old paper to prevent damage to the wall. 

Understand the importance of prep.Experts agree that time spent preparing your walls before hanging wallpaper will result in the best possible finish. Take the time to assess and treat the walls, particularly if you’re using a metallic-finish paper, which can expose even the smallest imperfections.

Check which adhesive and paste the manufacturer recommends, and whether your walls should be lined. “Most manufacturers will suggest priming the walls first, which means sponging on a watered-down paste solution prior to hanging,” Taylor says

Create a smooth foundation. Lining paper covers up lumps, bumps and blemishes, giving your walls a smooth surface ready to be painted or papered. ”Lining paper is very effective, and there are plenty of grades to choose from at very acceptable prices,” Poole says. “We always recommend using lining paper for a professional finish.”

Decide whether to paint baseboards before or after wallpapering. The experts here offer differing viewpoints on this topic. “We suggest you paint and finish the skirting board before applying the wallpaper,” Yaschuk says. “This means you won’t need to use masking tape on top of the paper afterwards, which can be risky.”

Taylor advises applying a base coat to the baseboard before wallpapering, then finishing off the painting after the paper is up. 

Consider all the elements in your room. Wallpaper is a key feature of any room, but it’s still just one element. Focus on the overall look you want to achieve rather than zeroing in on a pattern or color. 

“For me, the wallpaper is just one part of the styling of a room, and it’s important that all these parts complement each other, Broady says. The most successful room designs happen when someone has really thought about the different elements.”